There was an unexpected email in my inbox this morning. It was a message from someone with whom I have not been in contact for twenty years. She is a member of the first parish that I served as pastor. Her email was to tell me that her mother-in-law, a woman named Hannah, had died.
Hannah was a matriarch of the little country church to which I was called as pastor, right out of seminary. She was not young when I knew her. She died, now in old age, having lived a good, long life. I was her pastor, but she, in many ways, was my shepherd. She taught me about commitment and perseverance, faith and friendship, integrity and the importance of knowing from whence you to come, to know more fully who you are. Perhaps most importantly, Hannah was not above correcting me when I was wrong.
We lost touch with one another after I left that small community. A few times in the intervening years, I received a note in the mail, or after Hannah became tech savvy, an email.
I always thought that Hannah was one of those people to whom I wanted to write a long, heartfelt letter. A letter thanking her for the ways that she mentored me. A letter telling her how much her care for me as a young pastor meant to me. A letter letting her know what a privilege it was to know her, and how I am a better pastor and a better person because of her.
I wanted to write to Hannah, the words the Apostle Paul wrote to the people of Philippi: I thank my God every time I remember you. But I never wrote those words. My letter to Hannah remains written only in my heart and mind, and today, hearing of her death, I regret that I never took the time to pen my words of gratitude.
There are other people on my “must write letters to” list, and today I will find the time to do just that – write to at least one of them.
What about you? To whom would you like to say, I thank my God every time I remember you? Who in your life has so touched and formed and shaped you, that it would be good for you to tell them so?
I encourage you to do it. Pick up the phone. Walk down the hall. Write a note. Even an email will do. It will be good for them, and good for you.
God bless your words of gratitude –
Oct. 22, 2013
Rev. James A. Wetzstein and Rev. Charlene M. Rachuy Cox serve as university pastors at Valpo and take turns writing weekly reflections.